Tragedy strikes for photographer

Indonesian journalist used to covering disasters tells of losing her sister

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 1:51am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 1:51am

For 28 years, well-respected Indonesian photographer Enny Nuraheni moved many with the images she captured of her country's struggles and disasters - Aceh's epic tsunami, sectarian violence, plane crashes.

"I am used to seeing death and destruction when I am covering the news. When I finish my assignments, it is over. I don't think further," Enny said in a phone interview from Jakarta.

"I never once thought such a thing would happen to me."

Enny's older sister, Ninik Yuriani, was among the passengers on MH17.

"When I saw images of the debris of the aircraft, I thought to myself, 'There is no more hope.' If the pictures were of a plane's broken tail or wing, I could still hope. But not this," she said.

If the pictures were of a plane’s broken wing, I could still hope. But not this

Enny is the former chief photographer for Reuters Jakarta.

She is a tiny, energetic and courageous woman known for capturing some of Indonesia's historic moments under the most challenging and dangerous situation - civil unrest and sectarian violence amongst others.

A warm and compassionate photojournalist, always generous with her time to help young photojournalists despite a busy work schedule, she is a well-loved personality within Indonesia's press circle.

Yesterday, her Facebook account was flooded with condolences from friends within and outside of Indonesia.

"Deepest condolences Enny. May you and your family be given strength in these trying times and may the deceased be given the best place by his Lord's side," wrote Diana Yutiara on Enny's Facebook account.

In Malaysia, the downing of a the jet heaped new distress on a nation still stung by the trauma and global stigma of flight MH370's disappearance four months ago.

"I was very shocked," said Lokman Mustafa , whose sister was a passenger on MH370 which disappeared on March 8. "I first heard the news around 11.30pm. 'Is this for real?' I asked myself," Lokman recalled.

"Seeing images of burning wreckage - gruesome, graphic images - you get a sense of déjà vu. It's all over again. It's a sudden feeling of loss.

"I am sure the feeling is the same for victims' families. When you lose someone in an airplane, it pummels you."

He said the latest disaster was a "clear case that the plane was shot down by separatist movement and it involved terrorism".

He said: "There is closure. But for us, we are still waiting for our closure. We are still waiting to see where the plane is going to be found."

Malaysians have yet to get over the first disaster only to find themselves struck for the second time, he said.

"This is a challenging year for Malaysia and Malaysians are being tested. We should all be united," added Lokman.

Former acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who faced the daily barrage from the world's press after the disappearance of MH370, was inundated with well wishes and condolences.

He tweeted: "Sad but need to put aside personal consideration for the sake of finding the truth."

The mood in Malaysia was sombre. Some Malaysians removed their Facebook profile pictures and replaced them with a black square.

On the island of Penang, flags flew at half mast as a mark of respect for the victims and their families.

Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng called the disaster a "massacre" and called for an international probe to bring justice to the victims, reported Sin Chew, a Chinese-language daily.

Ibrahim Suffian, head of Malaysia's leading polling firm, said the twin tragedies were destroying Malaysians' sense of their multi-cultural country as a bastion of stability and prosperity in an often turbulent Southeast Asia.

"Malaysians have always felt shielded from calamity and tragedy. Typhoons, earthquakes, wars - it's always not us, but Indonesia, [Myanmar] or the Philippines. But that sense of security is shattered," he said.

Already, fresh questions are being asked of Malaysia, particularly why the state carrier was flying over an active war zone.

Prime Minister Najib Razak defended the airline, saying the flight path was deemed safe by international air authorities.

Malaysian Youth and Sport Minister Khairy Jamaluddin urged the public to fight speculation by some media outlets that the plane should not have been flying over the conflict zone.

"If we don't fight this narrative with facts, this will define the international news cycle. Malaysia an easy scapegoat. Not on," Khairy tweeted.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse